|Time Doesn't Heal All Wounds|
When people get emotionally triggered, their reactions to the current situation are often out of proportion to what's going on in the present because they're not only reacting to what's going on now, they're also reacting to the past without knowing it (see my article: Reacting to the Present Based on Your Traumatic Experiences From the Past).
Although they might realize that they're overreacting to the current situation, they don't understand why or how to overcome these reactions.
This often creates a sense of shame and confusion about their emotional experience. Eventually, if they are getting triggered by relationships, it can lead to an avoidance of relationships altogether to avoid repeating the cycles of feeling ashamed and confused.
Unresolved trauma often leads to a pattern of choosing unhealthy relationships as people try to unconscious work through the old trauma (see my article: Falling in Love With Mr. Wrong Over and Over Again).
Let's take a look at a fictionalized scenario, which is based on many different cases:
Ann had no problems meeting men and getting into relationships, but she tended to choose men who were emotionally unreliable.
Each time she got into a relationship, things seemed to go well at first. But whenever anything came up where Ann needed emotional support from a boyfriend, each of these boyfriends failed her.
Ann had been in her relationship with Bob for several months when she found out that she wasn't getting a promotion that she had worked so hard to get.
Feeling disappointed and frustrated, she called Bob and asked him to come over because she didn't feel like being alone.
But Bob responded by telling Ann that she was being "childish" and "needy." He told her that she needed to learn to handle disappointments and then he hung up abruptly.
Throughout their relationship, Ann had been the one who was emotionally supportive of Bob throughout his problems with his siblings and problems with his boss. She had never asked him to be supportive of her before, so she was shocked and hurt by his response.
After Bob hung up on her, Ann felt herself starting to panic. Her heart was racing. Her breathing was shallow. She felt like the room was spinning around her.
|Time Doesn't Heal All Wounds|
She didn't know what to do, so she called Bob back and begged him to talk to her, but he told her to stop being "dramatic" and hung up on her again.
This cycle of Ann calling and Bob hanging up on her went on for several minutes. It made Ann feel increasingly anxious and hurt.
Finally, Ann called a friend, who heard how upset Ann was and came right over to comfort her.
At that point, Ann could barely speaking because she was crying so hard. Her friend stayed with her, comforting and reassuring her.
When Ann calmed down, she felt very ashamed of her reaction. Her friend, who knew Ann's history, suggested that Ann see a therapist.
|Time Doesn't Heal All Wounds|
After Ann and her therapist established a therapeutic rapport, her therapist used a therapeutic method called the Affect Bridge to trace back her earliest experience of being traumatized in this way.
Ann's earliest memory was of being very scared as a young child when her parents went out and left her alone. This happened many times throughout Ann's early childhood.
No matter how much Ann begged her parents not to leave her alone, they dismissed her fear by telling her that she was being "childish" (the fact that she was actually a child and behaving normally didn't occur to them).
Ann was relieved to understand the connection between current feelings and the past. But understanding the connection between the past and the present is never enough to resolve the problem. Her therapist told her that she needed to work on the unresolved early childhood trauma so she wouldn't keep repeating the trauma as an adult.
Her therapist also told Ann that she needed to develop greater awareness about the types of men that she chose because she was caught in a recurring pattern of choosing men who were emotionally unreliable and who abandoned her.
At that point, Bob had told Ann that he couldn't deal with her "neediness" and he broke up with her. Ann felt deeply ashamed and kept pleading with Bob to take her back.
When her therapist explored this with Ann, Ann began to understand that Bob, and the other men that she chose in the past, were incapable of being emotionally supportive. And even if Bob took her back, she would soon face a similar situation where he would disappoint, hurt and abandon her again.
Ann's therapist introduced Ann to EMDR Therapy, and over the course of their work together, they worked through her early unresolved psychological trauma.
By the time Ann worked through the trauma, she was much more compassionate towards her younger self (see my article: Having Compassion For the Child That You Were).
She also understood that she had been unconsciously recreating these dynamics over and over again in her romantic relationships by choosing men that would eventually abandon her emotionally.
|Working Through Psychological Trauma in Therapy|
With the trauma worked through in therapy, Ann no longer had the unconscious need to repeat this pattern, so she was eventually able to make healthier choices and entered into a new, healthy relationship (see my article: Choosing Healthier Romantic Relationships).
Many emotional wounds don't heal with time, as the old saying goes, especially if these emotional wounds have their roots in early unresolved trauma.
People, who have unresolved childhood trauma, will often recreate situations, especially in relationships, where they continue to get emotionally triggered again and again.
People in these circumstances usually aren't aware that they are recreating these situations because these dynamics are unconscious and out of their awareness.
Getting emotionally triggered often leads to feelings of shame and confusion.
It's usually not until they seek help from a psychotherapist, who specializes in helping clients to overcome emotional trauma, that they begin to understand.
But understanding, while important, isn't enough to resolve their problems.
People who get continually triggered by unresolved trauma need to work through the original trauma with a form of therapy that is designed specially to heal trauma, like EMDR Therapy.
Once the unresolved trauma is worked though in therapy, people are free of their traumatic history and able to make healthier choices in their lives.
Getting Help in Therapy
If vignette in this article resonates with you, you could benefit from working with a trauma therapist (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).
Once you are free of the trauma, you can lead a more fulfilling life.
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.
I have helped many clients to work through many different types of psychological trauma.
To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.
To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.